Bedaz­zled by all those TV op­tions? Our handy guide will help whit­tle it down...

Need a new telly? Daz­zled by the op­tions? Here’s our handy guide

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

The tele­vi­sion land­scape has changed more than any other in the AV in­dus­try in re­cent times, so if you need two hands to count the years since you last bought one, your shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence will most likely be pretty dif­fer­ent to your last.

Not only have TVS upped the pic­ture per­for­mance game across the board (all but bud­get mod­els have a 4K res­o­lu­tion now), there are also brand-new tech­nolo­gies to grap­ple with (HDR, OLED, QLED) along­side the ba­sic ques­tions of screen size, TV place­ment, num­ber of in­puts and “Does it have Net­flix and BBC iplayer?”

Daunt­ing, eh? To try to make it less so, we’ve come up with a com­pre­hen­sive check­list that should help make your Tvbuy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence much less pain­ful.

4K or not 4K?

This might seem like a no-brainer at first, but should you re­ally go for a 4K TV over a Full HD set? The higher res­o­lu­tion sets – four times that of Full HD – have been adopted far quicker than 1080p was back in the day.

De­spite still cost­ing a pretty penny (es­pe­cially if you’re go­ing for a larger screen size), 4K TVS are very much af­ford­able and main­stream these days. You can get a 50in 4K TV for just £500 – and one that per­forms well, too. How much you’ve bud­geted for your new TV also comes into play. Full HD TVS tend to cost less than a 4K set, but we’d gen­uinely opt for Full HD only if you’re look­ing at screen sizes smaller than 40in.

For larger screens, the value you get from a 4K TV – su­pe­rior pic­ture per­for­mance, bet­ter fea­tures and in­ter­face – is def­i­nitely worth in­vest­ing in. Af­ter all, with 4K Blu-ray play­ers, 4K discs and 4K stream­ing now very much main­stream and af­ford­able, it makes per­fect sense.

What about HDR?

High Dy­namic Range (HDR) is the TV buzz­word that car­ries on buzzing, and tends to come hand in hand with 4K TVS. Essen­tially: the higher the dy­namic range (bright­ness and colours), the more life­like the pic­ture. HDR of­fers greater sub­tlety and depth of colour gra­da­tion, plus stronger con­trast.

There are var­i­ous types of HDR out there, and with dif­fer­ent TV brands back­ing dif­fer­ent vari­ants, it can be a mine­field try­ing to find the best op­tion.

We’ll start with HDR10 – it’s the stan­dard HDR for­mat that you’ll find in all Hdr-com­pat­i­ble con­tent, from 4K Blu-ray discs to Net­flix and Ama­zon shows. If you’re buy­ing a 4K HDR TV, HDR10 comes as stan­dard.

Then there’s Dolby Vi­sion. Un­like HDR10 – which ap­plies the HDR val­ues on a scene-by-scene ba­sis (ie. when­ever the cam­era cuts to a new scene), Dolby Vi­sion ap­plies this image in­for­ma­tion (called meta­data) on a frame-by-frame ba­sis. This

“SHOULD YOU RE­ALLY GO FOR A 4K TV OVER A FULL HD SET?”

dy­namic form of HDR, when im­ple­mented prop­erly, has the po­ten­tial to im­prove upon the stan­dard HDR10 pre­sen­ta­tion.

HDR10+ is a ri­val for­mat to Dolby Vi­sion. Cre­ated by Sam­sung, it sim­i­larly uses dy­namic meta­data, but, whereas Dolby Vi­sion is li­censed, HDR10+ is a free, open for­mat that any com­pany can de­ploy as it sees fit.

You’ll find Dolby Vi­sion on se­lect LG, Sony, B&O and Loewe TV sets, while Sam­sung, Pana­sonic and Philips are back­ing HDR10+. There’s plenty of Dolby Vi­sion con­tent avail­able now across Net­flix Orig­i­nal shows and 4K discs, but no HDR10+ just yet – al­though ma­jor movie stu­dios and Ama­zon Prime Video have signed up to use the for­mat.

And fi­nally, HLG (Hy­brid Log Gamma) is an HDR for­mat de­vel­oped specif­i­cally for broad­cast­ing by the BBC and Ja­pan’s NHK. All the big TV brands – Sam­sung, Sony, LG, Pana­sonic and Philips – have adopted its sup­port across the ma­jor­ity of their 2018 4K TV ranges.

So new buy­ers should be safe in the knowl­edge that when BBC’S 4K HLG tri­als – and more reg­u­lar 4K HDR broad­casts fur­ther down the line – ar­rive, they won’t be left out.

What type of screen?

Whether you punt for an LCD, QLED or OLED TV may de­pend on how big you want your screen. OLED pan­els aren’t avail­able in TVS smaller than 55in, and the baby screen for Sam­sung’s QLEDS is 49in. Look­ing for a smaller telly (maybe for a sec­ond room)? Stan­dard LCD’S your guy.

LCD TVS (which re­quire a back­light usu­ally made up of white LEDS to show a pic­ture on the LCD panel) are avail­able in a wide va­ri­ety of screen sizes and, thanks in part to the tech­nol­ogy’s low cost of pro­duc­tion, at af­ford­able prices.

OLED (Or­ganic Light-emit­ting Diode) is a panel tech­nol­ogy that uses self-emis­sive par­ti­cles – hence there’s no need for a back­light. This al­lows cur­rent tele­vi­sions to be in­cred­i­bly slim, while also of­fer­ing con­vinc­ing pitch-dark blacks, strong con­trast and su­perb view­ing an­gles. LG, Sony and Pana­sonic are the big-hit­ting brands with OLED TVS in their line-ups.

QLED (Quan­tum-dot Light-emit­ting Diode) is Sam­sung’s re­sponse to OLED. A QLED TV is an LCD TV but with a quan­tum dot coat­ing over the back­light. How­ever, the quan­tum dots (tiny semi­con­duc­tor par­ti­cles) in cur­rent QLEDS do not emit their own light. So QLED TVS, like con­ven­tional LCDS, rely on a back­light. The ad­van­tages of a QLED TV? You tend to get bril­liantly bright, sharp and crisply de­tailed images.

Edge-lit or full-ar­ray back­light?

If you’re opt­ing for an LCD TV, the LED back­light­ing comes in two dif­fer­ent types: edge light­ing or di­rect back­light­ing. The for­mer is the most com­mon and cheap­est to pro­duce. TVS are ‘edge-lit’ by a row of LEDS bor­der­ing and fac­ing the cen­tre of the screen, which dis­perse light across the screen. The ben­e­fit? Thin­ner TVS. The draw­back? Of­ten in­con­sis­tent con­trast, with the edges of pic­tures brighter than the cen­tre. Al­ter­na­tively, you can have di­rect back­light­ing (or ‘full-ar­ray’), which sees LED lights uni­formly placed be­hind the whole screen.

In the­ory, full di­rect back­light­ing typ­i­cally im­proves lo­cal dim­ming (ie. con­trast con­trol – si­mul­ta­ne­ously keep­ing the dark parts of a pic­ture dark, and the brightest parts bright). The one down­side is that this method usu­ally means a slightly thicker TV. “IT MIGHT BE TEMPT­ING TO THINK BIG­GER IS BET­TER...”

1 The con­trols are nicely damped and pleas­ingly pre­cise. 2 We switch off the power meter back­light for a slight gain in trans­parency. 3 Con­nec­tions in­clude RCA line-level ins and bal­anced XLR op­tions.

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